Susan Saves Santa Saving Christmas – a LEGO Square Wheels Story

I just posted up a blog about creativity in my poems blog, illustrated with some random LEGO pieces. And doing that prompted me to put together a slideshare program building around teamwork, collaboration, continuous improvement and the theme of motivating change and using my LEGO representations of the Square Wheels.

Here is a 15-slide illustrated storyboard:

Santa LEGO Square Wheels storyboard

click on the image to go to slideshare.net

I am trying to be cute, but to also tell a pretty serious story about the choices we make and what we can do differently to improve engagement and motivation in the workplace.

The Round Wheels are already in the wagon (as well as the sled!).

Hope you like it.

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

Square Wheels are a trademark of Performance Management Company
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

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Challengers: People to play Devil’s Advocate and Contrarians

Everyday news is awash with examples of bad corporate decisions, the ones that make you wonder, “How could they do that?” There are huge corporate decision-making failures such as witnessed with GM and the ignition issues or Bridgestone and the flipping Ford Explorers where problems were covered up. There are others, like the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan where backup generators to run the cooling systems were located in an area subject to flooding, a decision which caused 150,000 to flee and the eventual loss of many lives and livelihoods. And then, there is Duke Power’s very delayed decision to clean up 70 miles of the Dan River which they contaminated with 140,000 tons of toxic coal ash sludge that may never get cleaned up.

And there must be a zillion similar small examples happening every day in every organization, decisions that could be greatly improved if someone’s role was to challenge the thinking rather than to simply go along (often referred to now as The GM Shrug). GM people knew of the safety problem early — it was detected even before the first of these cars came on the market, according to an internal investigation about their handling of this issue. But nothing was done and the cars were manufactured and sold, resulting in some deaths and other problems.

A blog by Dan Rockwell on seven secrets to success, referenced in another post of mine, suggest this decision-supporting idea as one of the key secrets:

#6.  Embrace forward facing contrarians.

Conformists don’t build the future, but forward facing contrarians pull you forward. Protect them from the frustrations of others, as much as possible.

Personally, I do not think of the label of Contrarian as being much of a positive one, nor its alternative, The Devil’s Advocate. Contrarian sounds too “centennial” and angry – I mentally image some Roman guy in a toga with a sword standing on a pedestal or something. The Devil’s Advocate role was thought to originate with the Roman Catholic Church in 1587 to challenge against canonization of a person, “to take a skeptical view of the candidate’s character, to look for holes in the evidence, to argue that any miracles attributed to the candidate were fraudulent, and so on. The Devil’s advocate opposed God’s advocate.” (from wikipedia)

But what do we label this person?? What do we call that role? How can we frame this challenging job for teams in a positive way with our language?

- Divergent Repostulator?
- Anti-Advocate?
- Challenger?
- Re-Conceiver / Re-Conceptualizer
- Reverse Thinker?
- Polymorpheus Recapitulator?

I’m thinking Contrarian has a nicer ring than Devil’s Advocate but that Challenger has an even better framework for organizational improvement than Contrarian… I’m going with Challenger as that positive role for helping groups make better decisions. Appoint a temporary one today for your groups.

Square Wheels LEGO Poster of Challenger to decisions

I will build that concept into some of my debriefing tools for my team building games. With six people on a team in The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, for example, one of those people can certainly operate in a way to positively challenge the “group-think” and help drive out better strategic and tactical thinking.

Rent The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building game

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

 

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Leadership Secrets and Teamwork

Dan Rockwell’s blog, Leadership Freak, is excellent. He offers up a very wide variety of actionable ideas on so many subjects. His blog today pushed me to share his key points and add a few of my own when it comes to leadership and interacting with teams. We can do so much more.

Read his blog for the expansion of his key points, but here they are as bullets:

  1. Offer solutions, but always begin with problems
  2. Forget perfection
  3. Learn while you take action
  4. Focus on getting people in the right roles
  5. Build energizing environments
  6. Embrace forward facing contrarians
  7. Results don’t define you

When reading through his explanation, my mind was operating within the framework of my actionable view of the world. Here is my view of the generality of how things really work in most organizations:

Square Wheels LEGO image of how things work in organizations

Take a second and think about this illustration…

It’s been my experience that things seldom work smoothly and that the people do not work exceptionally well with each other between the front and back of the wagon or from the viewpoint of there being multiple teams. In my view of things, leadership is often isolated from the hands-on reality of the people at the back of the wagon, thus it is critical that leadership do more asking and listening than offering suggestions or simply accepting that things are working okay. There is a great deal of research that suggests that many people are not involved or engaged and that their bosses are not asking for their ideas for workplace improvement.

Dan’s thoughts are right about perfection (#2) — I think about it this way:

  • A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world. (John LeCarre)
  • The Round Wheels of today are the Square Wheels of tomorrow.
  • What we need is Continuous Continuous Improvement!
    (from the Department of Redundancy Department)

Peter Senge long ago wrote about the idea of a Learning Organization. Heck, I even read that whole book. And I think that, for the most part, the world is still looking for one of them. Most organizations do not come close to being focused on learning and teamwork and learning. Most organizations do NOT take the time to step back and look at issues or for possibilities. That kind of problem-solving teamwork is often seen in various “team bonding” kinds of challenges but not often rolled into the workplace.

For me, workplace reality should occasionally look more like this:

Square Wheels LEGO Poster on team perspective

What we also need to encourage are those individuals who step up and challenge the conformity and stale thinking of the group. Sometimes, these people can play the role of Devil’s Advocate, which can be politically difficult unless it is seen as useful (and which is sometimes actually taught in leadership training programs since it enhances problem solving and optimal solutions). The key, as Dan states in #6, if that this is forward looking and not just critical of things.

I see it thusly:Square Wheels LEGO image of devil's advocate

Someone needs to step up and challenge ideas, otherwise the tendency is to keep doing the same thing while expecting improved results. Muscle building (also know as training) will improve efficiencies, but only by a percent or two. What is needed is innovation and new ideas. Plus, those ideas generate a sense of teamwork, peer pressure for success, and an increased likelihood of generating that continuous continuous improvement I mentioned earlier. This is that positive, energizing of the environment that Dan refers to in #5.

Square Wheels LEGO team celebration poster

There are lots of things we choose to do as managers and leaders and most of them work okay. But there are also a lot of other things we can do to make even more contributions to our people and to our organizations.

So, Step back from your wagons and have a chat with your people about these things,

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

Square Wheels are a trademark of Performance Management Company
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

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Good Teambuilding? Bad Teambuilding? Leadership?

We’re running with a twitter thread around the link of #baaadteambuilding, with a goal of identifying and playing with some really bad team building frameworks like “herding sheep like dogs” (seriously) or “horse whispering” — there are all kinds of examples, even from my own blog (here).

I was looking at one of my Santa illustrations and thinking about what it might reflect to people and it spun my thinking into a Good News / Bad News kind of framework:

Santa Square Wheels LEGO illustration by Scott Simmerman

We have Santa and the reindeer ready to go. We have a cargo loaded, representing round wheels for the rest of the world. There must be some sense of accomplishment. We have Mrs. Claus with a plate of cookies! We have what appear to be happy elves.

But, we have a sled on Square Wheels (well, they do work on snow) and we have the Big Boss pushing people to get moving, maybe not recognizing any incremental successes. We have apparently unengaged wagon pushers and the leader is actually blocking progress. The reindeer may be indifferent to this whole adventure since they have not yet contributed anything.

  • From a team building perspective, how did we do?
  • Do they feel that this is a success, or that there are lots of unfinished things to do?

And like in most debriefings of activities and actions, I am guessing that there are a mix of issues and ideas, good accomplishments and challenges remaining. Will the team be motivated to succeed?

In the next few days, we will be adding a whole series of Santa-based illustrations similar to the above along with a few storylines about business process improvement and how to engage and motivate people. Subscribe to the blog if you would like to keep informed of our progress toward Christmas…

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

Square Wheels are a trademark of Performance Management Company
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

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Large Corporate Team Building Event Ideas and Issues

Team building programs corporations might consider for their organizational development programs vary in impact and cost. There are a variety of different kinds of activities for team bonding purposes and there are programs that accomplish team building, which take a different direction. The focus on this post is to outline ideas that will actually improve business results and generate  alignment to missions and goals.

Team bonding may be fun and useful, but it is not often designed to generate measurable improvements of the interdepartmental collaboration and engagement kind.

If you spend time at a large hotel or conference center and check out the general happenings, you can often find groups there having some kind of company retreat that is not totally an educational training program. You will often see people sitting around or engaged in some kind of general activity, with a large screen at the front and powerpoint being shown. The people are often excited when they exit, knowing that they escaped death by powerpoint and non-engagement, at least for a short while. One wonders, though, why hotels are not required to post health warnings about deep vein thrombosis for some of these sessions!

A couple of years ago, people at OnlineMBA.com came across a blog post of mine while they were researching “Team Building” and sent me a link to one of their articles entitled, “How the Top Companies Take On Team Building.

I liked the way it started, since I pretty much agree with this:

Few corporate-culture business phrases are as potentially groan-inducing as “team building.” Visions of cheesy performances and “inspiring” activities like coal walking and trust falls immediately spring to mind.

There are many posts in my blog about the more ridiculous or hard to seriously consider team activities such as golf, paintball or fire walking and we started up a twitter thread to capture some of these ( #baaadteambuilding ). While there may be some positive individual impacts from some of these challenge activities, most do not seem to have any real connection to teamwork or organizational improvement initiatives, Most are nowhere close to being tied to improving results.

Years ago, Dave Berry weighed in on Burger King’s toasty experience with a firewalk — see my blog post on that here.

But the OnlineMBA article quoted above is solid. It talks about some different activities that DO have positive organizational impacts, many of which are not costly. Some are a bit off the wall, like hiring a comedy troupe to come in and cause people to laugh. I have actually seen that backfire but that is a whole different discussion. And they talk about doing Personality Tests as a team building exercise –that needs to be more than simply testing and talking. Maybe they could let the comedy troupe do them?

I read about a school board in Tampa that got together with a facilitator to do some team building. They started with Patrick Lenconi’s work on dysfunctional teams and they quickly became dysfunctional, as one board member immediately complained about the lack of trustworthy behavior of the others and the whole session became an emotional shouting match that was over very shortly. (They employed a trainer, and not a trained facilitator, who allowed to group to get too emotionally engaged way too soon and failed horribly at keeping conversations civil and arms-length. Ugh.)

My experience has been that solid team building games, ones that involve and engage people in metaphorical play, work great as tools to involve and engage people in problem solving and teamwork. From the game experiences and observed behaviors, we can easily link back to the real issues needing to be addressed in the organization. And by using a business framework in debriefing, discussing results and alignment and leadership themes from the play, we always avoid that kind of dysfunctional challenge to history within the organization.

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine or Innovate & Implement  are fun, controllable, inexpensive and actually link directly to workplace collaboration and performance improvement.

And all of our products scale up from small group training sessions to very large group events. There are many long-term impacts on participants and the activities get everyone involved and engaged.

Team building exercise, Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine

Performance Management Company is the designer and publisher of The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine team building simulation. We sell different versions of the game for various uses and will also inexpensively rent the exercise to users for large group teambuilding or organizational events:

Rent The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building game

Click the above icon to see a detailed explanatory blog post about renting the exercise or click here to go directly to the information on the shopping cart of our website.

And you can find some testimonials here,

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.

 

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Rental of Team Building Exercise for Large Groups

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is a great team building exercise for focusing teams of people on themes of leadership, alignment, collaboration and the optimization of performance results. We’ve been selling and supporting the exercise worldwide for since 1993 and sometimes, it makes sense to invest some of your own time and resources into delivering a team building program for an event or conference.

In this post, we will share a framework to deliver a powerful simulation generally focused on collaboration, alignment and leadership for less than $25 per person. This is about 1/5 of what most competitors charge, and to this they often add facilitator fees and travel expenses! You can DO it for $25 and have a more effective and tightly anchored team development program, to  boot.

You want to do real team building for 40 people? You need one person to run the game and one person to support the banking function. You rent the game for $1100 (plus shipping) and you have everything you need in the box, including tabletop materials, resource cards, instructional and delivery materials. There are multiple debriefing slideshows you can see. Plus, you get unlimited coaching from my by phone and email. A competitor publishes their charge for a similar session at $8000 plus expenses.

Let’s say you want to deliver a session for 60 people. We would support that game with all the needed materials plus training support for $1500. You would get all the orientation, instructional and delivery materials plus that unlimited phone and email support. A competitor says they will charge you $3000 and that is just their facilitation fee. It will cost another $100+ per person and you will also pay their expenses…

In either case, experience says that your time investment would be a couple of hours to understand the exercise frameworks and mechanics. To prepare for delivery and debriefing might be another hour and you would need about an hour to train one or two support people to “bank” the game for you. All instructional materials are provided.

But let’s say you wanted to deliver a session for 300 people. First, you run the game for the senior management as a 3/4 day team building program. You play and debrief and teach, focusing on issues of motivation, visions, goals, resource management and planning. You also involve them in defining the session outcomes for the large session to follow. Lastly, you then teach them how to support your big game (as bankers and co-Expedition Leaders). They become an active part of the delivery and will model behaviors designed to support teamwork and leadership development.

This initial event and time investment insures that your overall debriefing aligns with the senior manager group’s main goals for collaboration, leadership, strategy implementation, etc. These senior managers are your delivery team — their role is to help teams be successful and to maximize overall ROI, which is often the same as their regular role!

$7500 versus $35,000: So, you rent the game for your leadership group ($1000) and you rent the game for your Big Group for $6500. You have no other game-related expenses unless you buy cowboy hats and bandannas, The end result is that you have done a LOT of teambuilding for that whole organization when all is finished, with people being active participants. You’ve paid $21 a person for your Big Game (as opposed to 300 people x $100 per person ($30,000!!) plus another $5000+ in fees and expenses). AND, by not using outsiders, you have actively involved and engaged your senior management team in this organizational improvement effort!

Here’s one last point: By doing the delivery yourselves, you are NOT watching some Big Stage Show Spectacular done by someone else. When you use Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, what you are getting is a world class, hands-on business simulation that focuses your people on the play of the game, not the fancy materials and costumes. (An interesting factoid is that one of our Dutchman customers is Cirque de Soleil in Canada.)

We’ve been renting the game for more than 15 years and selling it for more than 20 and we have it pretty much locked down insofar as materials and training and support. Here’s what one renter just said about her experiences. Note that this is her second time for renting the game and that she is NOT a trainer but a senior operational line manager who wants to be directly involved and engaged in her performance improvement initiatives:

Testimonial on Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building game

We can charge these very low costs because we have a small company with little overhead and we have a game design that does not require a lot of reproduction or manufacturing costs. It is just a really great bombproof exercise that anyone can deliver.

We can also apply some of the rental fee to a purchase price should you want to acquire the exercise to run with people over time (unlike most others, we charge a one-time price for your game purchase, with no certification or annual licenses or per-person or hidden fees)

Many of our small game purchasers (we sell classroom versions for 3 or 4 tables of 6 people each) like being able to run Dutchman occasionally for really large groups. Dutchman is greatl for a one-time team building event such as an “all-hands” meeting event. We have supported many of those kinds of trainings and there is no upper limit on the size of the group — one client delivered a Dutchman session of 870 people in the same room at the same time!

Unlike a lot of the other designed team building simulations, we have a truly elegant and pretty bombproof design, which allows us to NOT offer train-the-trainer programs or require certifications or have other kinds of restrictions. Many of our customers simply get the materials, review the overall support documents, go through the powerpoint and — maybe — call me. Many choose not to bother calling and just deliver it!

I offer free and unlimited telephone support – you talk directly to ME, the game designer and a certified master facilitator, not to some “support person.” Few people seem to need the support, though, which says that the included materials are pretty complete. They should be, since we first delivered the game back in 1993 and have played with its design and supporting documentation since that time.

I can also customize the design in small ways, and work with you to design and refine a debriefing that fits with your goals and objectives and within your time limits. Generally, for large groups of 60+, we like to have 3.5 to 4 hours to do the game and the desired debriefing. This timeline allows 90 minutes or more for your debriefing — that active discussion is what generates the commitment to improve collaboration and teamwork, planning and communications.

Dutchman is surprisingly inexpensive, high-impact and very memorable and the program can be specifically tailored to generate your desired outcomes.

Dutchman is THE world-class team building exercise focused on improving inter-organizational collaboration and aligning people to shared goals and objectives. It can be run by line managers and executives, too, not just people in training and consulting.

Unlike most delivery organizations, we have a posted pricing schedule, so you can look at the costs of renting this team building simulation and the detail of delivering the exercise before contacting us. You will find that few vendors of team building simulations actually post their prices. Isn’t that odd?

Dutchman Rental Matrix(The only constraint on renting the exercise is that I generally restrict the rentals to North America, unless you are referred in by one of our users or you have purchased other materials or are otherwise known to me. It is just too hard to control these things with international shipments.)

You CAN get me to facilitate your exercise, but I generally try to talk prospects out of that idea if I can. I can be used to deliver the Senior Manager Team Building Event, since that is sometimes political. But you can then get your senior manager to lead the Big Game for your people (with your training and support).

We think we are the best value in large group teambuilding events, costing lots less and offering more benefits than most other competitors,

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

You can find a LOT of information about running Dutchman with large groups by clicking on the large group picture in the above text or here.

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

 

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Thanksgiving, Innovation Ideas for Sustaining Success

We are going to pop up a free little Thanksgiving Conversational Toolkit focused on improving conversations about working better together. Joan is doing the main work on this and I have been tying to illustrate some of her poetry and put some tools together.

We should have it done by tomorrow (November 19, 2014), so if you would like a copy, email me and I can zip you a folder of some slides you can print and post or use in a powerpoint display and I will include the Moose Joke instructional video and those tools. The idea is to stimulate a conversation and focus about the past successes and the potential new ones that should be attained as we move toward the New Year.

Here is a business haiku that I just spun up to illustrate our thinking on this:

business thanksgiving haiku by Scott Simmerman

If you are looking for some conversational stuff to support any pre-Thanksgiving meeting you might be having, why not download these materials.

My Moose Joke is my favorite meeting closer:

Moose Joke punchline

Click on the above to read about this closing joke

I trust that all things roll forward smoothly,

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

Square Wheels are a trademark of Performance Management Company

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